On August 1st I read an article in the HUFFINGTON POST about how female college students and grads are paying off student loans with money they receive from sugar daddies. The girls are called sugar babies and the practice involves P4P (play for pay) or an “allowance.” As I read, it became clear to me that this practice is on the verge of becoming acceptable within the national monetary crisis. And now I also understand why some of the comments left by women stated that Ronnie should take advantage of the Mayor’s opportunities, even if it means having sex.
FORCED TO TAKE THE JOB But is it a job? [Part 5 of 8]
Jon paces his office, a cordless phone to his ear. A sheet of sunlight, reflected off the buildings outside his windows, brightens the papers strewn on his desk. He grabs one, scans it. “I can’t say this, Max. It’s bullshit.”
Max shouts through the phone. “Repeat after me, Jon. I need the independent votes! I need the independent votes!”
“I need the young people too! And I’ll lose them all if I cut summer jobs.”
“They don’t vote, Jon.”
“They will for me. And I’ll get’em.”
“What? With that Stein girl? She’s a landmine. Get rid of her!”
“You hired her.”
“For the website. Not your toy box!”
It’s evening. Ronnie’s back in bed. Ripped envelopes, the check book, and statements are lying around her. She reaches for the last unopened bill and reads it’s return address. She sighs, forcing a tear to roll down her cheek. She can’t open this one. Instead, she reaches into her handbag lying next to her pillow. She dials and waits for the pick up. Her friend comes on the line.
“It’s really bad, Beth. I can’t… I can’t…” She breaks down, sobbing, and grabs the sheet to wipe her face.
“Money?” comes through the phone.
“I’m not gonna make it.”
“No check in the mail?”
“What about the polling job?”
“It’s only been, what? Two weeks?”
“He said it would be sooner.” She reaches for a tissue. “You’re right Beth, I can’t stop getting run over by assholes.” She blows her nose, sounding like a sick puppy. “Hold on. Got another call.” She presses her cell and reads the ID. “City hall. Shit!” She sucks in the sadness and brings the phone to her ear. “Ronnie Stein.”
“Good news! You’re on payroll!”
“Thought you’d want a personal call about this.”
“It’s all good. So here’s what I need: twenty to thirty-five, male-female demographics. You’ll get opinions, from friends, in the bars, on campus, where ever you can get’em. Keep receipts. You’ll get reimbursed.”
“Jon, I’ve got a call waiting.”
“Oh. Didn’t know. We’ll finish this in my office, at the end of the day. If it goes long, we’ll have the time. You cool with that?”
“Call my office. My assistant’ill set it up.” Her phone clicks. He’s gone. Ronnie switches back to Beth.
“Who was it?
“The mayor. I think I took the job.”
It’s six-thirty pm, so there are few people left in city hall, and just the janitor in the mayor’s suite mopping the floor outside his office. Inside, Ronnie sits at the front of Jon’s desk, watching him scroll through her latest web design. With a hint of make-up and lipstick, she’s looking sharp in styled jeans and a silk white blouse. But she’s not attractive. Everything about Ronnie’s demeanor reads ‘angry,’ to the point of a scowl. But Jon’s tuned out of that, as he views page three on the iPad in his hands. “We love what you did here.” He looks up, with his I’m-the-Mayor smile. “Approved.”
She says nothing. Now he feels the vibe. “I thought you’d be happy. We got the money!”
“I didn’t. My second payment never came.”
“Really? I authorized it.” He jumps on his computer and types an email. “If it’s our fuck-up, it’s taken care of. Tomorrow, guaranteed, you’ll get the website check, and your first for the polling.
“We never discussed what I’m getting paid.”
“Oh. Thought Max told you.” Jon grabs a print-out off his desk, scans it to the bottom. “Twelve hundred, a week. It’s not much. But it’s part time. And we’ll keep you on retainer for the website. For updates and content.”
Ronnie nods. Inside, she’s exploding relief.
“You hungry?” He stands and opens his desk drawer. “There’s a little neighborhood place about a mile from here. We’ll take my car.”
“Thanks, but I have things I have to do.” She rises out of the chair and grabs her bag. When she pivots to shake his hand, she finds it extended, holding a small metal box and a plastic ID badge.
“For you,” he informs her. She scrutinizes the device. “Take it. It’s a recorder…and your ID.” She accepts the tools. “Max wrote up some polling questions. Let’s go downstairs for a drink. We’ll go over them there.”
“Ten minutes? C’mon. Relax. I don’t bite.”
To be continued…08/19/2011
Some words about building tension in fiction. In the first scene we discover that Jon is losing the race for reelection. And he is also being pressured to compromise his progressive values to stay in office. This is a moral conflict every elected official faces. In other ways, we face them too. Consequently, on a subconscious level, we accept this fiction as reality and commit our emotions to the story.
Also, we now know that Ronnie is considered a slut and sex object by his campaign manager. If we are invested in Ronnie’s plight, we now know her honor has been disgraced, yet we can’t warn her. Again, tension subtly mounts, as fiction and reality merge in our minds.
Second scene: raising the stakes once more – no payroll checks have arrived, yet the bills keep mounting. We have all been in this situation. Many of us still are. This real life pressure creates an identification with the character where we, as readers, weave our own fears into the fabric of the plot.
Third scene: Ronnie’s monetary fears are RESOLVED, only to be replaced by added manipulation by the Mayor. This is a game of cat and mouse. Ronnie wants to take the money and run. Jon wants Ronnie, and is willing to pay for her, which reminds me of the Huffington Post story.
So what do you think? Will Ronnie leave with Jon and go downstairs for a drink? Would YOU?